Police Make Composite Sketch from Murder Suspect's DNA

Arlington homicide detectives use new technology in old murder case

Arlington homicide detectives used DNA evidence to make a composite sketch of the suspect in a 31-year-old unsolved murder — even though they don't have a single witness to describe him.

In April 1986, someone shot and killed Teresa Branch and left her body outside an Arlington church. She was 18 years old.

"Everything that you can see right here is basically unchanged from 31 years ago," said Claudio Branch, Teresa's brother, pointing to a spot behind the Harmony Baptist Church on Arkansas Lane. "Her body was found in this parking lot right over here."

In the three decades since the crime, police have made no arrests, but detectives haven't given up.

They released a composite sketch of the suspect who is of Middle Eastern descent, according to the DNA profile.

It came from his DNA recovered at the crime scene.

"Thirty years ago when we collected this evidence, we had no idea what the technology would be today," said Arlington police Sgt. VaNessa Harrison.

Branch said he welcomes any new clues even as he tries to get on with his own life in the years since his sister was murdered.

"Holding out hope is obviously something we all want to do," he said. "How much pain and suffering, emotional, mental, can we tolerate as individuals?"

Police said "phenotyping," as it's called, is a new tool that investigators can use to help solve murders, both old and new.

It can even reveal a suspect’s hair color and eye color.

But hiring a company to do the scientific work can cost several thousand dollars — money that police say is well spent if it helps solve a murder.

Detectives in Grand Prairie were the first to use the technique in July. They came up with a sketch of a suspect in the 2008 murder of a probation officer.

Police haven't made any arrests in that case but say the sketch has prompted solid new leads.

"We do see a future in it, being able to have a solid composite of a person's DNA or what they look like, is really helpful for us," Harrison said.

Claudio Branch said he hopes it leads to the clue detectives need to solve the murder.

"For me it's about getting the final answer to this and learning what really happened and who did it," he said.


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